The picture at your right is like a piece of Goldman Sachs’s trading code, which is being used as evidence in the on-going federal case against Sergey Aleynikov, found on Courthouse News.
Aleynikov, you may remember, is accused of stealing proprietary code from Goldman and wiping his hardrive clean of evidence on his last day of work in 2009, and then defecting to Teza Technologies, a firm started by Citadel traders, where, it’s suspected, Aleynikov might have planned to bring the code.
A surprising argument being made in the case is whether or not Goldman’s code is even worth stealing.
Mikhail Milashev, the founder of Teza, says his firm didn’t want Goldman’s code; Goldman “isn’t good at it.”
Which could be true.
According to the testimony Shakhnovich, the managing director who oversaw Aleynikov while he was at Goldman Sachs, gave during the trial yesterday, the full version of the code shown in the photo generated about $300 million for the bank last year – a pittance compared to the bank’s revenues.
And the defence says Aleynikov was just trying to return some of the improved upon sections to the world, and to the developers who created them under an “open-source” copyright.
(Usually, an “open source” copyright means anyone can use and modify it. But in some cases, modifications or improvements made to “open-source” software have to be returned to the source. Aleynikov’s lawyer argues that’s all he was trying to do; he hopes that Aleynikov’s advocacy for “open-source” information (he was part of some “open-source” group) will help his defence.)
But the prosecution is of course arguing that the code is worth a great deal. The Feds brought in a real dub of a government witness, Benjamin Van Vliet, an Illinois Institute of Technology professor, to testify about the code.
Vliet said it was a “hot rod, built for speed.”
A competitor’s getting Goldman Sach’s proprietary software, he said, is like “a novice racer’s getting NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson’s car,” or a basketball team’s “getting a clone of Patrick Ewing” from the Knicks.
But then it seems his testimony fell apart.
At one point he bragged that he can build a high-frequency trading system in “an afternoon.” (He can’t – he later admitted it was a dumb joke.)
And when he was asked to identify a single line of source code submitted as evidence, he wasn’t able to.
So the prosecution needs to beef up their argument that the code was actually worth stealing, because Milashev is a highly successful trader who’s made $150 million in a year. So his testimony would seem to hold more weight than the Goldman MD’s – and Milashev says it’s not worth stealing.
Aleynikov is still on trial (and of course, may have stolen the code even if it wasn’t worth stealing) and faces up to 25 years in prison. We’ll keep you posted on any updates.
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